Queries raised over inspection of Saitoti chopper

September 18, 2012 1:21 pm
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Humphrey Bulimu testifies before the inquiry/CFM
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 18 – The academic and professional qualifications of a technician with the Kenya Police Airwing have been questioned at the commission investigating the helicopter crash that killed former Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, his deputy and four police officers.

Humphrey Bulimu was required to explain why he conducted a pre-flight inspection on the ill-fated helicopter yet he was a trainee still studying.

It emerged that the officer was not among the police technicians taken to South Africa earlier this year for training on inspecting and maintaining the Eurocopter AS350 B3e helicopter that crashed in June within Ngong.

The commissioners sought to understand whether he clearly understood the workings of the components of the helicopter.

“It was not the first time that I carried out a pre-flight inspection alone,” Bulimu said, disclosing that he carried out 33 crucial inspections of the plane despite his skills being untested.

“During the pre-flight inspection, you take your check list and carry out the pre-flight inspection as per the list… like checking the oil levels, cleanliness of the aircraft and many others that are listed there,” he explained.

Bulimu made the revelation during cross-examination by lawyers Ashford Muriuki, representing the late Captain Nancy Gituanja’s family, Fred Ngatia for the Saitoti family and Lead State Counsel Lucy Kambuni.

“I was not licensed by KCAA (the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority) but a technician doesn’t have to be authorised to do an inspection. As long as you are an aircraft technician, you can conduct inspections if you know how to follow the manufacturer’s checklist,” he said.

“The license is just a document. You may know what you are doing but you just don’t have the document. I am in the process of getting the licence.”

The police technician confirmed that he inspected the aircraft on the same morning it crashed, after being ordered by his seniors the previous evening at 5:30pm to handle the matter.

“I was not licensed by KCAA (the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority) but a technician doesn’t have to be authorised to do an inspection. As long as you are an aircraft technician, you can conduct inspections if you know how to follow the manufacturer’s checklist.”

He arrived at the Police Airwing hangars at Wilson Airport, rolled out the chopper and inspected it before allowing Saitoti, Orwa Ojode and their two bodyguards to board and fly out.

Bulimu has been receiving on-the-job training from a Eurocopter technician in Nairobi, but his skills remained untested by the relevant aviation authorities.

He has a Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering.

Asked by Ngatia if his seniors at the Airwing were aware that he was conducting crucial inspections on the helicopter without official documentation from KCAA, he said yes, but noted that he was authorised by his bosses to do the job.

Bulimu was also involved in removing and recharging the battery of the aircraft just two days before the crash.

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